It's impulse shopping meets car rental. Car2go, a car-sharing concept from Daimler, will launch in Austin, Texas, in fall 2009. The service will enable members to use their mobile phones to locate and rent one of a fleet of 200 cars near them without advance reservation.
The business model is similar to other car-sharing programs (such as Zipcar) in the U.S. with a few exceptions. The company's entire fleet of rental vehicles consists of Daimler's fuel-sipping, two-seater smart Fortwos. Registered members can rent the cars via their mobile phones and unlock the car with their membership card and pin number. They return the car to "any space not subject to parking fees or restrictions may be used--such as those along the side of the road or within designated parking areas," according to the company's press release.
Without the obligation of returning the car to the same place a driver picks it up, Car2go may offer a viable alternative to a taxi. Prime parking spaces will be designated for Car2go smart cars at train stations and other locations, and a ground team handles the logistics and maintenance of the cars.
Like Zipcar, the hourly rate includes all taxes, insurance, miles, and gas. Unlike Zipcar, Car2gos can also be rented by the minute, not just the hour or day.
The pilot program will begin with a defined group of users--potentially Austin city employees--and will expand to the public if it's successful.